Persistent disruption of lateral junctional complexes and actin cytoskeleton in parotid salivary glands following radiation treatment

Wen Yu Wong, Maricela Pier, Kirsten H. Limesand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Xerostomia and hyposalivation are debilitating side effects for patients treated with ionizing radiation for head and neck cancer. Despite technological advances, collateral damage to the salivary glands remains a significant problem for patients and severely diminishes their quality of life. During the wound healing process, restoration of junctional contacts is necessary to maintain polarity, structural integrity, and orientation cues for secretion. However, little is known about whether these structural molecules are impacted following radiation damage and more importantly, during tissue restoration. We evaluated changes in adherens junctions and cytoskeletal regulators in an injury model where mice were irradiated with 5 Gy and a restoration model where mice injected postradiation with insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) are capable of restoring salivary function. Using coimmunoprecipitation, there is a decrease in epithelial (E)-cadherin bound to β-catenin following damage that is restored to untreated levels with IGF1. Via its adaptor proteins, β-catenin links the cadherins to the cytoskeleton and part of this regulation is mediated through Rho-associated coiled-coil containing kinase (ROCK) signaling. In our radiation model, filamentous (F)-actin organization is fragmented, and there is an induction of ROCK activity. However, a ROCK inhibitor, Y-27632, prevents E-cadherin/β-catenin dissociation following radiation treatment. These findings illustrate that radiation induces a ROCK-dependent disruption of the cadherin-catenin complex and alters F-actin organization at stages of damage when hyposalivation is observed. Understanding the regulation of these components will be critical in the discovery of therapeutics that have the potential to restore function in polarized epithelium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R656-R667
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • Actin
  • Cadherin-catenin complex
  • Radiation
  • Rho-associated coiled-coil containing kinase
  • Salivary glands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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